In 2020 there’s a focus on health and safety at work to try to make the work place a safe place to work in after Covid-19, balancing the need to get the UK back working again for the benefit of the UK economy with the risks of a resurgence of coronavirus if social distancing and other health and safety measures aren’t followed. Many UK firms employ sponsored workers under Tier 2 (General) visas across a whole range of industries and they are asking questions about their health and safety obligations as a sponsoring employer of Tier 2 (General) visa workers.
UK immigration and Sponsor Licence solicitors
If your business needs legal advice on health and safety at work or complying with your Sponsor Licence duties and your recruitment of overseas workers call our specialist employment law and sponsor licence solicitors on telephone:telephone] or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.
Covid-19 and health and safety at work
If you are an employer in the UK then whether or not your employee is a British citizen, a person with settled status or a sponsored worker who is subject to Home Office immigration control you owe a duty of care to your employee and you are obliged to meet health and safety at work standards.
Although the UK standard of care owed to Employees and the health and safety regulations don’t distinguish between sponsored workers and settled workers it is important and best that employers look at their workforce individually and collectively when managing risks and health and safety at work.
For example, if an employee is pregnant special considerations may apply whatever the worker’s immigration and sponsor status. Those considerations are likely to be based on the individual employee’s job role and health. However, if you employ a number of workers whose first language isn’t English (whether or not they are sponsored workers) you would be right to look at that group of Employees collectively to see how, if at all, health and safety measures might be affected by any language barrier. For example, illustrative signs may be helpful in addition to signs providing written instructions on hygiene as part of your Covid-19 safe working procedures.
Employment and immigration law solicitors say that it isn’t unknown for employers to assume that their sponsored Employees have a greater command of English than they actually do or for Employees at times of stress or work pressures not to follow signage and instructions that isn’t easily and readily clear to them. That’s why sponsor licence solicitors say that when it comes to communication and signage in the workplace it is best to:
- Not make assumptions about either your sponsored workers or settled workers. For example, a settled worker may find it hard to read signage if they are dyslexic
- Keep communication and signage as simple as possible however sophisticated and highly educated your work force is.
It is also important to understand how some sponsored workers may feel uncomfortable or wary about explaining their vulnerability to Covid-19 (for example if they are asthmatic or diabetic) because they fear the consequences of revealing that information as they are not aware of their rights under UK employment law and are worried that if they are sacked or made redundant they would not only lose their job but also their home and ability to remain in the UK if they aren’t able to secure another job with an employer with a Home Office issued Sponsor Licence.
Accordingly sponsor licence solicitors recommend that when sponsored Employees are asked if they have any special needs of which their new employer should be aware of to ensure the employee’s health and safety at work that a proper explanation is given for these questions so that the sponsored employee feels comfortable in giving information to their employer and isn’t constrained from doing so because of language or communication nuances or fears about why the information is being sought.
When an employer is carrying out a Covid-19 risk related health and safety assessment it is easy to get things wrong even though an employer is trying their best to comply with health and safety legislation and protect all their Employees. If you think about it, telling a worker to wash their hands and keep away from their follow workers could easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the employee or a section of your workforce.
Conducting a Covid-19 risk assessment
Every employer, whether or not you employ sponsored workers under a sponsor licence, should carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment for the protection of your Employees and your business. If there is a Covid-19 outbreak in your business premises it could result in your Employees and customers falling ill as well as your business experiencing reputational and economic damage from having to temporarily close your business.
All employers should assess their workplaces and identify:
- What are the work activities and situations that could transmit Covid-19? For example, if office workers can socially distance themselves at their desks how are risks managed using communal facilities such as the photocopier, printer or kitchen facilities
- Which Employees are at most risk of exposure to Covid-19? This could result in your concluding that your reception staff are at most risk and identify additional protective measures such as adapting reception desks to include a protective clear screen
- Do Employees have any particular characteristics that place them at greater risk of Covid-19? For example, you may employ a transplant recipient or a cancer sufferer who is keen to return to the work place but is at higher risk of suffering a severe or fatal bout of Covid-19 because of their health condition that, under normal circumstances, would not affect their ability to work. There are various ways to minimise the risk from offering the ability to work from home (where possible), a change in job role so the employee isn’t coming into contact with as many other Employees or customers or additional personal protective equipment.
If your business has less than five workers your risk assessment does not have to be written down but employment law solicitors say that it is good practice to record that an assessment has taken place and to write down the contents to reassure your Employees and customers that you are complying with your health and safety obligations as an employer and treating Covid-19 with the seriousness that it deserves.
If your business has more than fifty workers the law says that the business has to publish the risk assessment on the firm’s website. This can be an opportunity to give a positive message across to both your workforce and your customers or consumers.
What happens after you have carried out the Covid-19 risk assessment?
After your business has carried out its Covid-19 risk assessment it is important that you communicate it with all your Employees. That is so all Employees understand the rationale behind the Covid-19 risk assessment and the decisions. For example, if some Employees don’t have to wear masks and some do then it is best to explain how you have risk assessed the Employees and that assessment, of course, won't have anything to do with their sponsored status or nationality but instead their job role and potential risk of exposure to Covid-19.
UK immigration and Sponsor Licence solicitors
Our specialist sponsor licence solicitors provide fast and easy to follow immigration and employment law advice .For expert immigration and employment law advice call the Sponsor Licence lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.
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Posted on: Friday, 21 August, 2020